Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sisters: Sister Seagull

Be Bop Deluxe: Sister Seagull

I don’t know if it is because I’ve been writing for another blog that wants third-person analysis, or just that I’m running out of music related personal stories, but I seem to be writing more here about bands that I want people to listen to and less about me, my family and friends. Which may be a good thing, or not, but that’s sort of the way things go on a blog that requires you to react to a prompt. Either there is a personal story there, or there isn’t. But there is almost always a song to write about.

I do, however, have a sister—a wonderful sister—but music has never been something that we spent much time sharing. I never got the sense that she cared about it as much as I did (most people don’t, to be fair), and the irony is that now she is with a guy who drags her to concerts.

So, I did sort of bring in the personal a bit. Now, on to the feature—Be Bop Deluxe’s “Sister Seagull,” from 1975, a time when bands could legitimately be considered blues rock, glam rock and prog rock at the same time, without causing a meltdown of the structure of the universe. I suspect that I was vaguely aware of these guys before I went to college—it would not surprise me to find out that WNEW-FM played them occasionally, but I know that when I was digging through the stacks at WPRB, I found myself listening to and playing them. Despite the fact that they were generally considered to be more prog than not, the current wisdom is that they were also precursors and influences on new wave music. And as someone who was playing music on the radio as new wave was emerging, maybe I sensed that too.

OK—I brought in the personal again. Let’s talk about Be Bop Deluxe. They were, essentially, an instrument of Bill Nelson, one of the unsung guitar heroes of the era. His songs often had sci fi imagery, but also reflected on modern society and relationships. This song was from the band’s second album, Futurama, the first with the lineup that would essentially be the classic configuration. Despite what Allmusic thinks, it is a pretty good album, with a few great songs, notably “Sister Seagull” and the thrilling “Maid in Heaven.” “Seagull,” is a mellower song, with some fascinating guitar riffs. The album, though, was not particularly successful, although their later albums, most notably Modern Music, did have some success in the U.K., and even sniffed at the U.S. charts. The band’s final album, Drastic Plastic, began to showcase a bit more of a new wave sound, and because he wanted to try new things, Nelson disbanded Be Bop Deluxe, ending its short run. Thereafter, Nelson’s career turned into one of constant experimentation and collaboration, but limited commercial success. Here’s a video of the band performing the song on the BBC’s legendary show Old Grey Whistle Test.

I strongly suggest checking out this band’s limited output. Although certainly imperfect, each of their albums contains a number of now forgotten gems.

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